Starry night

I can´t say that painting is a topic that I´ve always been interested in, or that I´ve dedicated much time to it during my life, but it is true that there are certain works of art that I find especially beautiful (or interesting), and that I´m really fond of.

Among them, there are several pieces by Vincent Van Gogh.

I think this is mainly thanks to a coffee shop that existed years ago in Madrid´s city centre, Van Gogh Café, which my family and I used to visit very frequently, given its lovely atmosphere,, the superb food they offered and the fact that it was located just next to my parents´ apartment. I have very good memories of going to Van Gogh´s when the girls were still little, especially with my parents at lunchtime, and sometimes with the additional company of some of my siblings, siblings in law or nephews and nieces, whoever happened to be in Madrid on those dates. And on a couple of occasions, we also had big celebrations, with the whole family gathered together 🙂

The café was of course decorated with all things Van Gogh, with copies of his best known paintings scattered all over the walls, paper placemats printed with a collection of his many self portraits, and even a reconstruction of one of his scenes, with a real table and two chairs placed next to a big front window. Unfortunately, that venue closed down a few years ago, but the simple style and the vibrant colours of Van Gogh´s paintings stayed in my memory since then.

That´s why I was so happy when I recently got to see some of his paintings at the National Gallery, in London, including the one with the sunflowers (or to be precise, one of them, as he painted several canvases with the sunflowers theme), the chair you can see above, and this landscape with clouds that I didn´t remember seeing before, and that I also found quite cool:

But the clear winner in my opinion is the starry night, a painting that even Lego has paid homage to, and that´s also one of the pieces most highlighted in the interactive exhibition (or as it´s officially called, "the immersive experience") that we visited in Dublin this weekend:

I loved learning a bit more about the life and works of this great painter, who was gifted with very deep sensitivity and an extraordinary talent, both of which sadly came together with a great deal of suffering, as it often happens in the world or artists.

There were several of his quotes that I found really inspiring, like for example:

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

“The heart of man is very much the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too.”

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

And I also remembered that years ago, somebody composed a beautiful song about him, "Vincent", here it is with lyrics in English and Spanish:


There have been a few moments this week when I have felt a little uncomfortable.

Nothing serious, only a bit of discomfort when facing situations outside my usual day-to-day. They were somewhat tense moments (inside my head, at least), in which I didn´t know what to do or say in order to avoid making a mistake, and I felt clumsy and incompetent, a bit like a fish out of the water.

Outside my comfort zone.

But also this week, interestingly, I heard an analogy that worked wonders in making me change my perspective.

Discomfort is something that we naturally tend to avoid, as we find it unpleasant, whether it´s related to a physical sensation or any other kind of uncomfortable feeling, like in certain social situations.

But for example, when we´re practicing a sport, what we´re doing is essentially subjecting our body to a certain degree of discomfort during a set period of time, with the goal of developing our muscles and making them stronger. And bit by bit, with perseverance, our body gets used to it, and becomes capable of doing that exercise more and more easily and with less and less effort.

Está muy claro que si no nos movemos del sillón, nuestros músculos no se desarrollan. Pues de la misma manera, podríamos argumentar que nuestros “músculos” sociales, y nuestras habilidades en general, se desarrollan viviendo experiencias un poco incómodas, que son las que nos remueven, nos desafían y nos impulsan a aprender.

Because, let´s be realistic: when we feel a hundred percent comfortable, it´s because we´re not learning at all...

A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.

John Assaraf

I remember that before moving to Ireland, I was not used to feeling cold at all, and I found it really hard. Then as years went by, I acclimatized, and nowadays, it´s not that I enjoy being cold or anything like that, but that sensation that I used to find so uncomfortable in the past is not such a big deal now, I find it much more bearable. Why? Because at some point I decided to stop avoiding feeling cold at all costs, and I allowed myself to feel a bit of the cold and confirm that it wasn´t the end of the world and that I could still function normally. Now I believe I´ve freed myself from having to always keep an ideal temperature.

Llevando el mismo razonamiento a las situaciones que os comentaba al principio, ahora por suerte sé que el sentirme incómoda durante unos minutos no es el fin del mundo. Todo lo contrario: es una oportunidad para estar atenta y observar (y observar-me), ejercitar “músculos” que a lo mejor no sabía ni que tenía, y confiar en que acabaré aprendiendo algo nuevo.

What about you, what makes you feel uncomfortable? And what is that discomfort trying to teach you?

Do what you can

It´s been a week already in 2023; we are slowly returning to normal life after the winter celebrations... And maybe the excitement we felt a few days ago, at the beginning of the year, is starting to fade away.

Aquellos planes que tanta ilusión nos hacían, aquellos propósitos, puede que ahora se nos hagan un poco cuesta arriba. De hecho, en España existe una expresión que no sé si la hay en otros países: “la cuesta de enero”. Se refiere a las dificultades que a veces tenemos para afrontar este mes, a menudo económicas (por haber gastado mucho durante las Navidades), pero yo diría que también emocionales, al haber acabado ya la época de celebraciones y haber vuelto a la rutina, el frío y la monotonía del invierno.

Wooden steps ascending through a rocky field, under a grey cloudy sky

Por lo visto hay mucha gente que ahora en enero se pone a planear sus siguientes vacaciones, para tener algo con que ilusionarse, o como se dice en inglés, “something to look forward to”. Ayer pasé por delante de una agencia de viajes, ¡y había cola! Me quedé alucinada.

What I'm trying to say is that this time of the year may feel a bit hard to us, especially if we have a goal or objective that still seems very far away and we don't feel that we're making enough progress.

I'm the first one currently in that situation: I have a few enhancements and other things planned for BinaryWords, and here I am, watching the days go by much faster than the progress I'm making with the project... In my opinion, as I've pointed out in the past, the key is finding a sustainable pace, which in my case translates to finding the balance between being patient with myself and giving myself a little kick. Resting and looking after my well-being, of course, as well as carving out time to do things I like, but also motivating myself even when I don't feel like it, and assigning reasonable tasks to myself every day or every week; otherwise, it's very easy for me to stay in my comfort zone and not move.

Speaking of, I´m happy to report that I have finally started a mailing list through Mailchimp. You can subscribe here to receive the weekly post in your email inbox, and get updates about new things coming up. If you´re already subscribed you don´t have to do anything, I´ll add you to the new list, and hopefully, you´ll start receiving emails in a slightly nicer format 🙂 And if you see any problems, please let me know so that I can fix them, I´m still learning (and I still need to investigate how to make the emails bilingual without having to write it all twice...)

Anyway, getting back to our topic, I encourage you to have patience with your goals and objectives for this year, especially during this month of January, and also to keep making progress at a pace that allows for your self-care but doesn´t allow you to make excuses 😉

And I´m finishing today with one of my favourite quotes of all times, which you can apply to any situation, including this one:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Theodore Roosevelt

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! To all of you who celebrate, be it as a religious festivity or simply as an occasion to enjoy spending time with your loved ones.

Christmas tree leaves close up with lights, golden stars and golden bauble

Either way, I hope you're having the opportunity to do something different, as well as rest and recharge batteries now that we're getting closer to the end of the year.

And with the new year, new things will come to BinaryWords! For the moment, let me leave you with a phrase I saw yesterday in a Christmas market stall here in my home town, it read something like...

Living is like riding a bike: in order to maintain your balance you need to keep moving forward

UPDATE: after writing this post I learned that the quote is by Albert Einstein, and its wording is slightly different: it mentions moving, doesn't say in which direction. But I say, given that we have to move, why not moving forward?

Collecting quotes

Thanksgiving celebrations took place this past week across the United States, and if you have been taking a look at social media, you will probably have seen (in between Black Friday sale ads), a whole heap of inspirational quotes about gratitude.

(If you feel like reading a post about gratitude, here´s one from about a year ago)

Wooden scrabble letters forming the phrase "Say thank you"

My usual readers will have noticed that every now and then I like writing quotes in this blog, but not all the time, because even though I looooooove quotes (we could say I´m a quote collector), I get the impression that sometimes we get bombarded with so many of them that we end up overwhelmed, and then they no longer get our attention. That´s why I prefer to use them in small doses.

Today I do want to show you two quotes that are basically telling us the same thing, and they´re not the only ones by any means. It´s a message that´s been said a thousand times in a thousand different ways, precisely because it´s as true and as relevant nowadays as it was back in the ancient times of Greek philosophers:

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.


Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.

Oprah Winfrey

Untranslatable sentences: walking down memory lane

Hoy os traigo otra expresión de esas “intraducibles” que me encanta en inglés, porque me parece una metáfora muy chula: walking down memory lane, que en español sería algo así como “darse un paseo por la calle de los recuerdos”.

And that´s precisely what I´ve been doing this weekend: accompanying my friends in their own walk down memory lane, returning to places they hadn´t visited in many many years. It turned out to be a wonderful walk, both in the literal and figurative sense, and inevitably, we created new memories (thanks a million ladies!)

Stack of old black and white photos

In Spanish, the closest thing to memory lane that I can think of is something called the trunk of memories, from a famous song by Karina:

Searching through the trunk of memories
Any time in the past seems better than now.
Taking a look back is good sometimes,
Looking ahead is living without fear.

Another interesting metaphor, I think. And also during this weekend, I found myself searching inside that trunk, rescuing special moments with someone very close to my heart who passed away recently, and to whom I would have liked to be able to say goodbye.

Estoy de acuerdo en que de vez en cuando viene bien mirar un poquito hacia atrás y recordar con cariño las cosas que fueron, ya que al fin y al cabo, como decía my abuela, “aquellos tiempos trajeron éstos”. Aunque eso sí, tengamos cuidado de no regodearnos demasiado, que no nos impida aprovechar el presente…

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

Robert Brault


Every time of the year has its own traditions, and nowadays in the Northern hemisphere, it´s time for the autumn ones.

En Cáceres (España), donde you nací y crecí, al día 1 de noviembre se le conoce como “el día de las castañas”. Es el día de Todos los Santos, seguido del día de Todos los Difuntos, cuando muchas familias visitan los cementerios para recordar a los seres queridos que ya no están.

When I was a child we didn´t know anything about Halloween, or Diwali, or even the Mexican Dia de los Muertos traditions. And my family doesn´t usually visit the cemetery. But what we did do every year around this time was roasting chestnuts, so yummy!

Raw chestnuts

As years go by and we get older, we have the option to continue certain traditions, park them if they no longer make much sense to us, or transform them according to what we consider important. I keep many good memories (and a stack of photos, developed on paper!) from my secondary school and college times, when our group of friends used to go out on a trip to a nearby field to roast chestnuts. Then years later, when we arrived in Ireland, we were fascinated by the Halloween celebrations, especially in their most original celtic version, which includes bonfires, as well of other traditions that had arrived from Noth America, like trick or treating or carving pumpkins.

Pero incluso aquí en Irlanda y rodeados del espíritu de Halloween, casi todos los años nos seguimos juntando unos cuantos irreductibles españolitos a hacer una “castanyada”, como dicen los catalanes, pasándolas canutas a veces para encontrar las dichosas castañas 😀 Aunque en realidad da igual, las castañas son otra excusa más para reunirnos, al igual que principios de verano nos reunimos por San Juan para “saltar la hoguera”.

Now in more recent years, thanks to living in a multicultural neighbourhood and having work colleagues from India, we have also learned about the tradition of Diwali, the triumph of light over darkness, which makes a lot of sense at this time of the year when the days get shorter and the nights seem to last forever. We have just changed the clocks here in Europe, next week it will be America´s turn, and the dark evenings seem to invite us all to enter hibernation mode.

That´s why I Iove Diwali lights, Halloween lights and even Christmas lights (despite it being a bit too early for those), I think they add a spark of joy at such a grey time of the year… At the end of the day, deep down, everything comes back to the same; lights and shadows, hope in seeing that darkness is temporary, and that better times are definitely coming.

We keep traditions because they give us a sense of familiarity, of comfort, of security. But as it happens with everything in life, if we take them too seriously, they can end up becoming a source of stress rather than a source of enjoyment, so let me leave you with a couple of quotes I like about this topic:

Just because something is traditional is no reason to do it, of course.

Lemony Snicket, The Black Book

Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.

W. Somerset Maugham

What about you? What traditions, new or old, do you have planned for this autumn?

Nihil volitum…

…Nisi praecognitum. This is one of the few phrases I know in Latin, and it roughly means that you cannot desire what you do not know.

Monkey with a mirror in their hands, looking at their reflection

It came to my mind today, along with this other phrase I read in a book by Laura Chica: Accept yourself. Love yourself. Improve yourself. In this order.

Muchas veces, en el mundo del desarrollo personal, queremos empezar por el final: nos empeñamos en intentar ser mejores, en superar nuestros defectos, y en “solucionar” las partes de nuestra vida que creemos que no funcionan bien. Intentamos cambiar nuestros “malos hábitos” a base de fuerza de voluntad, con el tremendo esfuerzo que ello supone, a menudo para conseguir resultados escasos y poco sostenibles. Es como como si estuviéramos nadando a contracorriente.

Wanting to change, to evolve, to improve, is a very positive thing. But if we approach it from a place of judgment and self-criticism, then all we´re really doing is beating ourselves up. Loving and accepting ourselves as we are is the necessary previous step for any long-lasting and successful life change.

But of course, this is much easier said than done; how can we get to the point of accepting and loving ourselves? The answer also comes to us from old wisdom, this time in Greek, through the famous inscription that used to decorate the front of Apollo´s temple in Delfos: γνωθι σεαυτόν. Know thyself.

It makes sense, doesn´t it? How are we going to love ourselves if we don´t even know ourselves? The better we know ourselves, the more we will understand ourselves, it´s that simple. As we dive deeper into the adventure of self-discovery, we will start becoming aware of what motivates us and what scares us, what our deepest desire is, why we do what we do (and what for), and it will become easier for us to forgive, accept, and finally love ourselves. And once we love ourselves, change happens from the inside out, without the need to force anything.

So, instead of starting at the end as so many times before, I encourage you to start at the beginning, by looking at yourself in the mirror and setting out on your inward journey:

Know yourself, accept yourself, love yourself, improve yourself. In this order.

Untranslatable sentences: back to basics

Aquí va otra frase en inglés de esas que me gusta llamar “intraducibles” – no es que no se puedan traducir al español, pero en inglés suenan muchísimo mejor, para mi gusto, y la traducción digamos que hay que explicarla para que se entienda bien (otras frases y expresiones here, here and here).

Y la frase de hoy es “back to basics“, que significa más o menos “volver a lo básico”.

¿Y qué es lo básico? Pues depende del tema del que estemos hablando. Si estamos hablando de decoración, por ejemplo, o de moda, puede ser apostar por líneas y colores más sencillos, en vez de estilos más rebuscados. Si hablamos de educación primaria, puede ser volver a poner más énfasis en las asignaturas esenciales, como son la lengua y las matemáticas. La idea que a mí me transmite el “back to basics”, en general, es que nos hemos vuelto tan sofisticados (en el área que sea) que we have forgotten what is truly important, the basis of it all, and we must return to it.

It´s a sentence that can be applied to many situations, at home, at school, and at work. Today, I´d like to propose that we use it as a reminder to look after ourselves.

woman doing hand heart sign while looking at the sunset

Looking after ourselves first, so that then we´re able to look after others, or take care of our own tasks. Because, how often are our days so busy, and so full, that they go by without us dedicating any time or attention to ourselves? And by the time we realize it, we´re already out of energy, already exhausted.

It may be due to us believing that other things are more important, that other people must come first… But that´s not sustainable in the long run. I love the way Katie Reed expresses it:

“El autocuidado es darle al mundo lo mejor de ti, en lugar de lo que queda de ti.”

Katie Reed

Would you like to have the energy required to give the world the best of you? Then I suggest that you return to focus on these four basic pillars, if at any point you have stopped paying attention to them:

  • Rest – getting enough sleep every night (enough hours of deep, restoring sleep), as well as taking short breaks during the day.
  • Diet – keeping to healthy, balanced, and if possible, natural foods. Also, drinking lots of water in order to stay hydrated, and practicing conscious breathing every now and then, to help oxygenate each and every cell.
  • Exercise – dedicating some time to move, even better if it´s outdoors, and often. If you choose something that you like and find motivating, you´ll be more likely to keep at it: your favourite sport, swimming, running, dancing, yoga…
  • Connection – encontrar el equilibrio entre dedicar tiempo a conectar con los demás, pues somos seres sociales, y conectar también con nosotros mismos, para poder mantener “las pilas cargadas”.

What do you think about these four basic pillars of self-care? Would you add any others? Which one do you think would be good for you to give more time and attention to, at this moment in your life?

Not enough hours

Do you ever feel that your days are too short, that they´re not enough to be able to do everything you want (or need) to do?

En esas estaba yo hace unos años cuando me topé con un programa de RTÉ, la televisión nacional irlandesa, que se llamaba precisamente así: “Not enough hours” (no hay horas suficientes).

Recuerdo que en aquella época yo estaba bastante agobiada en general, de hecho el subtítulo de mi blog de entonces (la anterior encarnación de BinaryWords), era “en lucha contra el caos”. Porque así era como me sentía: había mucho caos en mi vida, y yo tenía que luchar contra él, y todo se me hacía cuesta arriba… Básicamente lo que estaba pasando era que tenía un trabajo a jornada completa, una niña pequeñita más otra en camino, y unas expectativas de mí misma que no era capaz de cumplir.

So that TV programme was to me just what the doctor ordered, for multiple reasons. First, I felt better when I saw that what was happening to me was also happening to many others, in different ways. Second, I learned several things that I found both interesting and useful; I´m sharing two of them down below.

And third, that´s how I got to meet Owen Fitzpatrick, the psychologist and time management expert who presented the programme. He accompanied a different person in each episode, helping them with their particular problem. I loved the way he explained time management concepts and then applied them to figure out solutions that truly worked for each of the participants... Later on, speaking with a work colleague (thanks Tim!), I found out that Owen was an expert in many other areas as well, and that´s how I ended up taking my first NLP course, in Dublin, back in 2013, with Owen Fitzpatrick and Brian Colbert 🙂

These are the two learnings I took away from the programme, as I remember it:

  • Cómo el perfeccionismo nos hace más mal que bien, y la frase “perfecta” para que no nos agobie ni nos bloquee a la hora de hacer algo:

It doesn´t need to be done perfectly, it only needs to be done.

(Owen Fitzpatrick, and many others using similar words)

Interestingly, even today, when I realize I´m stuck trying to perform a task to the level of perfection, what I hear in my head is Owen´s voice saying this phrase, and that helps a lot (it also confirms that one of my main representational systems is the auditory one, which is something I learned in his NLP course).

  • How the concept of time is something abstract, represented internally in different ways by different people. For example, when imagining a timeline, some people visualize it from left to right, placing the past on one side and the future on the other side, while others represent it perpendicularly, placing the past behind them and the future in front of them. Depending on your particular internal way to represent time, you may find it more difficult to get organized with a traditional format calendar, and if so, there may be other strategies that suit you better to get things done.

What do you think about these two ideas? What would help you to make the most of your time?